Avoidable delays

I’d forgotten to post this bunch of bits, this rant I wrote on the 16th.   Better to have this up among the bitclouds than on my laptop’s suspiciously slow, possibly damaged hard drive.

I was browsing news about results of the senatorial race, when a paragraph in yesterday’s article by Tricia Aquino caught my attention:

“Many of the BEI (Board of Election Inspectors) of the clustered precincts, after having a hard time [transmitting], or else did not try hard enough to transmit the PCOS election returns from their precincts… took their flashcards and carried these to the municipal and city canvassing centers,” said PPCRV chairperson Henrietta de Villa after consulting with Commission on Elections Commissioner Christian Lim about the slow pace.”

“Are they even supposed to be doing that?” I thought, taking the flash memory cards (presumably containing election returns) out of the PCOS machines? The Smartmatic website specifically says their devices are “designed to transmit the electoral data in a secure and unidirectional manner, with no need of human intervention, and in accordance to the requirements of the electoral body.”

These communication networks either work or they don’t; there is no “try”.  Unless the PCOS devices are transmitting results using the cell phone network, and they don’t have a signal – or are unable to “register” to cell towers.

“So, why aren’t they able to transmit?”  It doesn’t make sense that local protests would delay transmission of results via the data cellular network, as Commissioner Brilliantes explained yesterday (unless those protests involved burning cell antenna towers).  I can’t imagine why I’m still seeing under 75% of all returns from the unofficial counts being reflected in news summaries, as PLDT’s Mon Isberto has said that their network remained fully operational, so that “as a result, transmission of election returns that have been coursed through our facilities have been handled with dispatch.”

 

Since I can’t trust the marketing pages on Smartmatic’s site (and because the COMELEC website gives no technical information about how the system is intended to work), I have to wonder: Is it safe to trust that the content of those PCOS memory cards, having been removed from the PCOS machines, can’t be altered?  We need to know whether the election returns data on those cards is encrypted, and whether that encryption can resist being reversed, or “broken” during the time that those returns aren’t processed in the normal course of events.  The longer it takes for those results to be reflected in the national tally, the higher the likelihood that an attempt to “brute-force” the encryption (which I can only assume exists) on those cards will succeed.  If the content can be decrypted, it can be modified.  And with stakes this large, the cost of this technical hack is small beans, in relative terms (think several dozen computers, or the cost of hiring of a crooked engineer).

 

And why should transmission using any of the GSM networks even be a problem at all?  Didn’t COMELEC avail of cell tower coverage maps from telcos during their logistics planning for these elections?  Did they not consider having an alternative data transmission channel – say, landline DSL modems – as a backup, for voting precincts that have unreliable cell service?  It’s not like the precincts move around, so that it’s hard to tell in advance that this might be a problem.  They can’t be unaware that cell phone jamming equipment can be bought from overseas, so that provision has to be made against the possibility that some idiot would try to disrupt the electronic canvass. The only memo I found on the COMELEC site dealing with technical issues doesn’t describe what to do in the event of transmission failures.

If all this sounds like a backhanded critical swipe at the COMELEC, it can’t be helped; not after hearing the head commissioner dismiss the usefulness of a source code review by saying the PCOS machines ‘reads codal language’, not the source code.  There are no ‘codal instructions’, only ‘machine instructions’; that hamfisted effort to explain (i.e. dumb down) the discussion, the imprecision, leaves me cold. And more than a little angry, in fact, for which I offer no apology.

The COMELEC could have avoided these problems with suitable technical preparation. Some of which they could have taken with advice from a much larger audience: us, the voting public.  With 50 million registered, adult voters, there was no need to dumb down and minimize public discussion of how the electronic voting process was intended to work.

There are thousands of network engineers from whom COMELEC could have elicited feedback on the design of the overall system, and who would have identified this possible source of delay – and a means to work around it (i.e. get the supplier to provide dialup modems).  Thousands of programmers who work with embedded systems, who could have told the rest of us citizens whether or not the system could be trusted with our vote – and whether the integrity of the ERs would be preserved despite removing the flash cards from the PCOS devices.  Goodness, it’s 2013 – they could have used their website to publish a forum, for people to discuss the technical implementation.  The inability of COMELEC to be transparent, and to elicit citizen feedback is, right now, sorely testing the integrity of the vote.

Break time reading: The God Delusion

Taking a break from writing code, and too easy access to the depressing online news is a good thing; and what better thing to do with this time, than to read a real book?

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

The most striking quote I’ve found while listening to an audiobook of “The God Delusion” (after hearing an interview with the Thomas More Society’s Atty. Jo Imbong, on the successful passage of the Reproductive Health Law), is this one attributed to Voltaire:

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities”

Indeed.  And for all you advocates of the “rights of the unborn”:  Do pay heed to the rights of the ALREADY born, the adult Filipinos who would benefit from the implementation of the law, and share this country and planet with you now.

Carlos Celdran “offends religious feelings”, faces jail time

What the hell IS this? Are lay church members – plaintiffs insane?

Giving “religious offense” is actually a basis, in Manila, the Philippines, in 2013, for incarceration. WTF?! Nasa’n si Padre Damaso, ha, at ma-deport nga?!

Full text of the decision is available from the article at the Filipino Freethinkers, or from a local copy obtained off  https://docs.google.com/file/d/0ByIQb2-6J40ISGVXOTdXXzFpRGM/edit

There is more than one way to order and express our loyalties – to our families, communities (Church, town, teams) and to country – but relying on outdated, anti-Constitutional law to protect your “feelings” (read: political position on a topic about which you have a beleaguered opinion) is not an acceptable way to show fealty to the teachings of “the” Church.

To you plaintiffs who’ve caused Mr Celdran to be given jail time:  You know what? The Church’s position resisting sex education, and making contraception available to women citizens as a choice, is deeply offensive to me, what do you make of that?

Are you taking offense with other persons’ opinion about a topic that your religion has something else to say?  Get over it, and move with the rest of us into the public sphere.  Make your statement a political statement, but leave the religious feeling of the rest of us out of the public discourse.  You might win legislation, or you may not; but make the discussion a rational one, based on what all our fellow citizens need.

Errata:  Article was originally posted with the title “David Celdran ‘offends religious feelings’, faces jail time”.  That was not a spell check problem – for some unfathomable reasons of it’s own, my brain made that substitution, and my fingers followed. Sigh.  Must avoid posting when pissed off.

My apologies to stray visitors.

Frigging routing loop

Well, now. Google isn’t reachable – which shouldn’t be such a big deal, except that most Web pages these days make our browsers fetch scripts and content from the Google domain.  Curiously, my bank is online; as is my hosting provider.  My favorite machine tool porn site, Glacern Machine Tools, is also up. But no BBC, no Al Jazeera. WTF?

It’s partly down to a frigging routing loop (below), plus some modulation scheme jiggering so I need to dial down to EDGE rates to post this.

effing-routing-loopNow how does a telco manage to get itself into a routing loop?  On purpose.  Pack sheet, oo.  Makatulog na nga muna…

Teka…

… Nah, it’s probably not a DOJ takedown.

The DOJ Cybercrime Primer – Misleading silences

The Department of Justice published a short, “easy to read and simple to understand” three-page primer on cybercrime on November 26, 2012  (DOJ releases Primer on Cybercrime).  Being short, it is also appallingly devoid of intelligent discussion about how the infamous Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (RA 10175) is perceived as a full-on attack on one of the foundations of democratic freedom, that of freedom of expressionContinue reading “The DOJ Cybercrime Primer – Misleading silences”

Just give me some non-God-centric electroless copper plating!

Updated 29 December 2012, 6:42am – See Think & Tinker’s guide to acid copper through-hole plating

That’s it – I’m giving up for the day.  Twenty-one hours of searching online for a copper plating service that’ll give me PCB through-hole plating anywhere in Metro Manila yields nothing. And worse. Continue reading “Just give me some non-God-centric electroless copper plating!”